CORNER BROOK — While the accolades and recognition of Myra Bennett and Al Pittman are certainly warranted, their families feel they would both be left wondering, “why all the attention?”
The wings of the arts and science residences at Memorial University of Newfoundland Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook were named after the prestigious nurse and renowned author Thursday.
Trevor Bennett, the son of Myra Bennett, was joined by a number of family members to unveil the name of the residence wing. He said he was appreciative of the recognition paid to the nurse referred to as “the Florence Nightingale of Newfoundland.” What his mother would think of it is uncertain, but that she was a modest woman despite the remarkable care she provided along the Northern Peninsula after she moved her from England in 1921.
“If my mother was here, she would say, ‘what’s this fuss all about, I haven’t done anything more special than anybody else has done,” he said following the unveiling in the fine arts atrium. “That was her attitude toward everything. She just soldiered on.”
It seems fitting to have her name associated with a university — the same one which granted her an honourary doctorate — because of the educational component of her work in those early years in rural Newfoundland.
Bennett said she had a lot to learn about nursing when she arrived, something she did from the people who provided care throughout the communities along the coast. Later, her son said, she passed along her knowledge and experience to others willing to help provide health care in those isolated communities.
All these years later, her great-grandson Josh Bennett is now a fourth-year nursing student in Corner Brook. He said his mother tells him that Myra put a hand on her belly while she was pregnant, and that was the reason for his interest in health care.
He said it was a real honour to be a part of the ceremony, and that he hopes the generations of youth learn of his great-grandmother’s legacy because of it.
“I find a lot of people my age, and below, dont know much about her, so it is cool to keep the history going,” Josh said.
The Theatre Newfoundland and Labrador play “Tempting Providence” has ensured Myra Bennett is now a household name in many places.
Meanwhile, the legacy of Al Pittman has been passed along through events, such as the March Hare, and a monument on West Street. His daughter Emily said she is still a little uneasy about the accolades, knowing it was always something her father despised.
However, again she said it is another way for the community to share in their memory of her dad. With all the years he spent teaching at Grenfell, she said this is one of the more fitting ways to recognize his contribution.
“He certainly would have loved that it is a building dedicated for students,” Emily said. “He loved to teach, and he was certainly passionate about students.”
She also said he shared that love with both Corner Brook, as a place to live, and Grenfell, as an institute of learning.
The west coast campus also unveiled the names of the new chalets Thursday. Buildings 1-5 will now be called Birch, Jack Pine, Juniper, Spruce and Tuckamore Chalets. Buildings 6-8 are the Torngat, Topsails and the Gros Morne Chalets.
Naming the chalets after the forests and mountains found throughout Newfoundland is a tribute to the landscape that makes the area such an attraction.